What can I do to get out of the sales contract because I was misled by the realty company?

Full Question:

I live in Alabama. I listed my house with Realty Company. I later discovered their market analysis of my home was too low. They were looking for a quick commission fee sale. They listed my house at $304,900. This week I obtained an appraisal that reports market value of $375,000. I relied on the realtor's persuasion and expert advice. A contract has been signed for FHA sale. What are my options? I want to cancel the contract and list the house at its' fair market value. One more item to know - the owner of Realty Company tried to pay cash-in-hand at $288,000 three weeks ago - before a contract was signed. This is what sparked my realization that the house was listed too low and to obtain an appraisal. I notified Realty Company that house was listed too low and wanted to cancel sales contract. They threatened to file a lien and pursue arbitration. I received notice via email that they are proceeding with closing on my home. Is this legal? Can I have the sales contract voided under their fraudulent acts? I see their current representation as acting on behalf of the buyer and not me. Is this allowed? I need to know my options. I realize that I may have to pay the commission fee but I want to pursue their misrepresentation and actions legally.
05/24/2009   |   Category: Fraud   |   State: Alabama   |   #16770


When serving a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant of other party in a non-agency capacity, realtors remain obligated to treat all parties honestly. Courts have held that a party may rescind a contract for fraud, incapacity, duress, undue influence, material breach in performance of a promise, or mistake, among other grounds. In order to prove a fraud claim, it must be shown that the defendant had an intent to deceive. If deception was used to induce another to rely on a promise and such reliance caused harm, it is possible to recover damages. Fraud may be made by an omission or purposeful failure to state material facts, which nondisclosure makes other statements misleading.

A legal action for breach of contract arises when at least one party's performance does not live up to the terms of the contract and causes the other party to suffer economic damage or other types of measurable injury. A lawsuit for breach of contract is a civil action and the remedies awarded are designed to place the injured party in the position they would be in if not for the breach. Remedies for contractual breaches are not designed to punish the breaching party. The five basic remedies for breach of contract include the following: money damages, restitution, rescission, reformation, and specific performance. A money damage award includes a sum of money that is given as compensation for financial losses caused by a breach of contract. Parties injured by a breach are entitled to the benefit of the bargain they entered, or the net gain that would have accrued but for the breach. The type of breach governs the extent of damages that may be recovered. Restitution is a remedy designed to restore the injured party to the position occupied prior to the formation of the contract. Parties seeking restitution may not request to be compensated for lost profits or other earnings caused by a breach. Instead, restitution aims at returning to the plaintiff any money or property given to the defendant under the contract. Plaintiffs typically seek restitution when contracts they have entered are voided by courts due to a defendant's incompetence or incapacity.

To prove a material breach of contract that relieves a party of the obligation to perform their end of the bargain, it must be shown that the breach was significant enough to cause the transaction that was bargained for to no longer have value. It will be a matter of subjective determination for the court based on all the facts and circumstances involved, to determine if there has been a material breach of the contract or fraud. If a breach or fraud is found, it is possible that the contract may be rescinded and/or damages may be recovered.

Rescission is the name for the remedy that terminates the contractual duties of both parties, while reformation is the name for the remedy that allows courts to change the substance of a contract to correct inequities that were suffered. In order to have a rescission, both parties to the contract must be placed in the position they occupied before the contract was made. Courts have held that a party may rescind a contract for fraud, incapacity, duress, undue influence, material breach in performance of a promise, or mistake, among other grounds. Specific performance is an equitable remedy that compels one party to perform, as nearly as practicable, his or her duties specified by the contract. Specific performance is available only when money damages are inadequate to compensate the plaintiff for the breach.

Promissory estoppel is a term used in contract law that applies where, although there may not otherwise be an enforceable contract, because one party has relied on the promise of the other, it would be unfair not to enforce the agreement. Promissory estoppel arises from a promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forebearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the promisee and which does induce such action or forebearance in binding if injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise.

Detrimental reliance is a term commonly used to force another to perform their obligations under a contract, using the theory of promissory estoppel. Promissory estoppel may apply when a promise was made; reliance on the promise was reasonable or foreseeable; there was actual and reasonable reliance on the promise; the reliance was detrimental; and injustice can only be prevented by enforcing the promise. Detrimental reliance must be shown to involve reliance that is reasonable, which is a determination made on an individual case-by-case basis, taking all factors into consideration. Detrimental means that some type of harm is suffered. Reasonable reliance is usually referred to as a theory of recovery in contract law. It was what a prudent person might believe and act upon based on something told by another. Sometimes a person acts in reliance on the promise of a profit or other benefit, only to learn that the statements or promises were either incorrect or were exaggerated. The one who acted to their detriment in reasonable reliance may recover damages for the costs of his/her actions or demand performance. Reasonable reliance connotes the use of the standard of ordinary and average person.

I suggest you contact a local attorney who can review all the facts and documents involved.